Recently, the word myopia has become a significant buzzword for media on topics ranging anywhere from global politics and finance to education and eyesight. For years, the term myopia might only have been something you heard from your eye doctor when you or your family member were experiencing blurry distance vision. The doctor probably prescribed a pair of eyeglasses to correct nearsightedness – and you were on your way with a clear view of the world.
Today there is a myopia movement happening. A quick Google search reveals that discussions about visual myopia as a public health issue arrived on the scene in 2005, yet until recently, it remained an issue without a cause. Key research highlights that the global prevalence of myopia is continuing to rise to crisis levels as we approach 2050, but why does this research matter? What does it really mean – the myopia epidemic – and why do we need a movement to change the direction our world’s vision is heading?
Let that sink in.
Half the population in 2050 will add up to more than five billion people who will have issues with distance vision. That matters because today we are seeing early onset of myopia due to numerous environmental factors, not just genetic ones. In fact, myopia could become the most common cause of irreversible blindness worldwide. And, while research and product innovations are underway to help slow the progression of myopia, right now we are not getting ahead of the problem fast enough.
It matters because a recent study shows that the global impact to productivity attributed to myopia exceeds more than $244 billion annually. This analysis does not account for the cost of education loss due to poor vision. It does not address the costs associated with road accidents or the cost of potential blindness resulting from unaddressed high myopia, which researchers project to increase seven-fold from 2000 to 2050.
The good news is that what started as a discussion in 2005 is becoming a movement in 2019. In recent years, the VII has had the opportunity to sponsor collaborations like the International Myopia Institute, which is bringing together individuals from across all areas of myopia research to address the situation. In a paper, Myopia – A 21st Century Public Health Issue, they state: “Myopia needs to be recognized as a public health issue if there is to be a change in the approach to this condition, and only a collaborative effort across all eye care professions and researchers could bring this about.”
A secondary paper calls for education beyond the field of eye care, stating: “In the prevention of myopia progression, it is not solely professionals in the eye-related field who should be well versed on the subject matter. School-based interventions are already in use in Taiwan and China, including mandatory outdoor time and reduced homework hours. Elementary school teachers need to be made aware of these new methods and be able to inform parents and students and provide access to appropriate resources.”
Given the global myopia outlook, it’s clear that myopia is a growing problem for all of us. The good news is that collectively we will find a solution. We can all be advocates. We can all raise awareness. If we do our part to ensure that the world sees better through access to information, eye exams, and eyeglasses, we can collectively envision a better world for us all.
The Vision Impact Institute currently offers more than 120 research papers underscoring the need for an increase in conversations about myopia at a global level.